NCAA Football News

Clemson Football: What You Should and Shouldn't Be Concerned About After Week 2

Week 2 is in the books for the Clemson Tigers, and it ended in style with a 73-7 win over South Carolina State on Saturday.

In the first two weeks, we have seen some positives but also some negatives. Which of these issues should be a concern moving forward, and which ones are being overblown at this point?

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Miami Football: What You Should and Shouldn't Be Concerned About After Week 2

Like all programs around the nation, the Miami Hurricanes have a few concerns to deal with following the opening weekends of the 2014 college football season.

Not every issue is a major problem worth worrying about because some wrinkles work themselves out as the season progresses.

Then again, some must be corrected before they continue affecting the team during conference action, the most important part of the year.

Miami doesn't have much time to spare, since the remainder of its ACC matchups begin in two short weeks.

 

Should: 3rd-Down Efficiency

Through two games, the first-string offense is only 3-of-19 on third down, and that hasn't been helped by an average of 7.94 yards to go during those situations.

Offensive coordinator James Coley has done well to avoid predictability by calling 29 runs compared to 25 passes on first down.

The overall problem is Duke Johnson has averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on second down, excluding a 21-yard burst against Louisville. The 'Canes can definitely clean up earlier plays, but it starts with better blocking.

Until the offensive line improves, however, Miami will be forced to overcome 3rd-and-long situations and not let its superstar pick up the final yards on the ground.

 

Should Not: Coaching

It's been two games, yet a few emotionally overcome observers are petitioning for Al Golden to be fired and commenters across the Internet are unhappy.

It's been two games. What's gone so horribly wrong that an early-season pink slip is a legitimate course of action? In reality, very little.

During the opener, Golden and Coley admittedly eased Brad Kaaya into game action, but then the Hurricanes were in the midst of a short week. Consequently, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Golden said the same playbook was used against Florida A&M:

Freshman Kaaya will have greater control of the offense moving forward, which is exactly what has been demanded. Coley's play-calling certainly must be refined, but he's only controlled 16 games on his own.

Players on defense have been markedly better tacklers and improved pass-rushers under much-maligned coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.

Plus, if Golden, Coley or others on the Miami staff are canned like a scattered number on social media demand, the recruit exodus is sure to follow. But that's another story for another day.

 

Should: Place-Kicking

After missing a 45-yard attempt against Florida A&M, it's clear Matt Goudis' offseason back surgery has restricted his power. He only connected on two of five attempts from beyond 40 yards last season, and his lessened range does not help that trend.

Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel notes Golden said his kicker saw a doctor and should be ready for the remainder of the season:

Matt encountered some issues on Saturday that, I think have been resolved. He's gone to the doctor on Sunday or Monday, we think the discomfort part of that has been resolved and he's been kicking really well, so, Lord willing, he'll be able to get past that. He needs a little luck here, but as you know, Matt's a real good kicker. He just had some discomfort that was hard to deal with for him on Saturday night.

It seems possible Goudis' condition will improve, but the kicking game is still a concern until he proves otherwise. The 'Canes are very likely to be locked in numerous tight battles, and Goudis might be the pivotal part of earning the victory.

 

Should Not: Thin Linebacking Corps

Heading into the season, Miami had top-shelf NFL prospect Denzel Perryman, relatively experienced Thurston Armbrister and unproven players behind the duo at linebacker.

In two short weeks, Armbrister has emerged as a smart, versatile player who spends the majority of his time on the strong side. The junior has been a constant force in the backfield, increasing the level of disruption on opposing quarterbacks.

Additionally, D'Onofrio has been impressed with sophomore Jermaine Grace, who is now pushing Raphael Kirby for the weak-side starting role.

"I thought Jermaine stepped up with his preparation and how he played fast," D'Onofrio told David Lake of 247Sports (subscription required). "He really put his time in and you could see his talent come out. He made a lot of plays around the ball."

Kirby is best suited as Perryman's eventual replacement anyway, so Grace stepping up gives the Hurricanes another reliable option at outside linebacker while freshman Darrion Owens continues to develop.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Tigers Who Must Step Up If Travin Dural Sits out with Injury

Travin Dural's fast start to the 2014 season took an unfortunate detour Wednesday afternoon, when it was reported that he had suffered minor head injuries in a car accident and is being held out of practice.

Ross Dellenger and Ryan Broussard of The Advocate spoke to sources who described the details of the accident:

Dural needed stitches to his forehead. He has not been practicing with the team this week because he’s unable to wear a helmet with the stitches, another source confirmed. He is 'day to day.'

Dural was the driver of the vehicle. He was heading north on Nicholson Drive and made a left turn onto Bob Pettit Blvd. without having a green arrow, Baton Rouge Police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola said. A Chevy Avalanche collided with Dural’s vehicle. No citations were issued.

Paramedics responded to the corner of Nicholson and Bob Pettit Blvd. at 3:16 a.m. Sunday, EMS spokesman Mike Schustz said. LSU beat Sam Houston State 56-0 on Saturday, a game that ended at about 10 p.m. Dural was transported to Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City for the injury, a source said.

According to the report, an LSU team spokesman declined to make a comment. Head coach Les Miles is scheduled to speak with the media after Wednesday's practice—as he does every week—and will likely provide an update on Dural's status at that time.

It doesn't appear like Dural will miss an extended period of time, but even a short to medium amount of time could be troubling. The Louisiana-Monroe game this week and the New Mexico State game in three weeks should both easy wins for the Tigers regardless, but the Mississippi State game in two weeks and the Auburn game in four weeks would both be difficult without Dural, LSU's leading receiver and the current FBS leader in yards per reception (48.5).

Here are three guys that would have to step up in his absence.

 

WR Malachi Dupre

Malachi Dupre has not made the quick impact most folks expected, sitting out the Wisconsin game with an injury before playing in the fourth quarter of Week 2's win against Sam Houston State.

When he got into the game against the Bearkats, though, he quickly made a reassuring impact, catching two passes for 23 yards and a touchdown on his first drive. The touchdown was slightly overthrown to the corner of the end zone, and Dupre had to use his long arms to reach out and haul it in.

If Dural is forced to miss time, Dupre is his most logical replacement, which would mean an extended trial with the first-team offense. Or at least that's what Dellenger predicts will happen:

Dupre was the No. 17 overall player and No. 2 wide receiver in the 2014 recruiting class, and unlike LSU's other star freshman, Trey Quinn, he projects best as an outside threat. Quinn is capable of getting down the field as well, but he does his best work as a run-blocker (something that has earned him early playing time) and catching passes in the middle third.

Assuming Dural does not miss the Mississippi State game, his minor bang-up might actually be a blessing in disguise.

Dupre is LSU's future No. 1 receiver, and he could use the early reps.

 

QB Anthony Jennings

Losing Dural would be a stiff—but potentially illuminating—test for quarterback Anthony Jennings, who has established an obvious rapport with Dural in the first two games of the season.

Throwing a wrench into that comfort zone puts Jennings in a difficult position: If he doesn't play as well against UL-Monroe as he did against Sam Houston State, the obvious deduction will be that Dural was making him look good (instead of vice versa). 

Jennings has a QB rating over 200 after two games this season, but those numbers are a little inflated from the Sam Houston State game, and there is still a vociferous faction of the LSU fanbase that wants freshman Brandon Harris to see more first-team reps.

Losing Dural would give Jennings a chance to prove he can overcome adversity—but also a chance to prove he cannot.

The Warhawks, for what it's worth, held Wake Forest under 100 total passing yards in their season opener and have three interceptions through two games. They're a team LSU should, in theory, carve up, but they are just talented enough to provide a good litmus test.

 

WR Trey Quinn

Quinn was intentionally saved for the bottom of this list, mentioned after Dupre—whom he's been playing over—for a reason.

That reason is not because Dupre is better than him, necessarily. It's because Dupre has more to prove. Quinn has already been running with the first-team offense, so he's a slightly more well-known commodity.

However, as mentioned above, Quinn has been used in a mostly dulled-out role through two games, making his biggest contributions as a blocker. That will always be something he excels that, and the coaching staff will always give him playing time because of it, but it's time to see what Quinn can do with the ball out in space.

Quinn caught a two-point conversion against Wisconsin and a third-down pass against Sam Houston State, but with Dural potentially out, he will have to emerge as a weapon on standard downs. That's especially true if Dural can't play against Mississippi State—a team with a great front seven but questions in the secondary—LSU will need one of their three freshman receivers (Dupre, Quinn and John Diarse) to play well beyond his years and get down the field.

According to Dellenger, Miles said Quinn is playing "almost every set in the offense," which puts him ahead of Dupre and Diarse in terms of knowledge. He can run Cam Cameron's plays with the highest degree of confidence, which is what Jennings and/or Harris need.

They need the guy they know they can count on.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

After two weeks of action, we have 45 FBS teams that have gotten off to 2-0 starts, while another 14 are looking for answers after beginning 0-2. Both tallies will be lower after Week 3, as the schedule features six matchups of 2-0 teams and a clash of 0-2 squads.

This week's slate only features one game pitting teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, but it should still be a competitive weekend with only seven of the 58 games featuring visitors from the FCS ranks. Another 19 FBS teams are on a bye, while Cincinnati finally gets its 2014 season underway after being kept on the sidelines to this point.

Take a look at our predictions for every Week 3 contest, then give us your thoughts on who will beat whom in the comments section.

Week 2 record: 61-13 (.824)

Season record: 131-27 (.829)

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The Future of Steve Spurrier

Two weeks ago, the Georgia-South Carolina game looked like one that will unquestionably decide the SEC East.

The landscape changed after the Gamecocks got trounced 52-28 by Texas A&M on opening night.

If South Carolina suffers its second SEC loss of the season, falls two losses behind Georgia and loses the tiebreaker to the Bulldogs, its SEC East title hopes will become virtually nonexistent. After all, an 0-2 start with trips to Auburn and Florida still on the schedule will make two home losses nearly impossible to overcome.

"It's pretty much a 'must' if we're going to have a shot to win the division," Spurrier said during his weekly Tuesday press conference.

But what about Spurrier's career?

"There was a time in 2008 when [former Gator quarterback] Tim Tebow hung 56 on him, and he just looked whipped," said Brady Ackerman, reporter and host for the Gator Radio Network, former Gator player (1987-1991) and graduate assistant (1994). "A lot of people called me and said that he's retiring after this year. I called up there and realized that there's no way. It's going to add more fuel to the fire." 

That fire is burning white-hot.

The 69-year-old legend is signed at South Carolina through the 2018 season at approximately $4 million per season but has made it clear that he wants at least one more SEC title in his trophy case before hanging up the visor.

"We've won a lot of games, but we still have only won one division, haven't won an SEC," Spurrier said at SEC media days. "Those are goals that we have a shot at that could happen for the first time in school history."

It likely won't this year if the Gamecocks fall to the Bulldogs, but that doesn't make this a "make or break" game for Spurrier's South Carolina career.

 

A Different Philosophy

When he was hired by South Carolina, his first goal was to become the winningest coach in program history. He accomplished that in 2012, breaking Rex Enright's record of 64. A win on Saturday will give him 201 career wins as an SEC coach, which would tie him for second with Georgia's Vince Dooley in SEC history behind "Bear" Bryant (292).

He's done it different ways.

At Florida, he combined a "fun 'n gun" style with a fertile recruiting ground to win six SEC titles and one national championship. At South Carolina, he's had to pay more attention to recruiting and adjust his style to a run-first approach to lead the Gamecocks to three straight 11-win seasons.

"He realizes that he has to do things differently in order to win," said Westwood One radio analyst Chris Doering, who played wide receiver for Spurrier at Florida (1991-1995) and with the Washington Redskins (2002). "At South Carolina, he's running the football a lot more. There's a lot more defense and playing in low-scoring games."

Former quarterback Stephen Garcia was there during the transformation.

When he came to Columbia in 2007, he challenged the "Head Ball Coach" both on the field and off. Sure, there were off-the-field incidents, but Garcia was the first true dual-threat quarterback to play for Spurrier and was followed by another in Connor Shaw.

"I think I put some years back on him," Garcia, who's an analyst for SaturdayDownSouth.com, said jokingly. "But he didn't really have many mobile quarterbacks before us. I think Connor and I sort of switched it up a little bit with our ability to execute the zone read and our scrambling abilities."

It took time to develop the right philosophy to win at South Carolina, and it has paid off.

"He didn't try to force a square peg into a round hole as far as the offense was concerned," said former wide receiver Tim Frisby (2004-2005). "He figured it would take four, five years to get the program where he needed it. He has been very patient in the team-building process."

That patience is a big reason the program is where it is today. Ten years ago, simply being in the discussion for the division title once every four or five years would earn a head coach a parade in the streets. Spurrier has led the program to eight of its 19 all-time bowl appearances, won the SEC East once (2010) and produced the first three 11-win seasons in program history (2011-2013). 

The patience is paying off, which is surprising to some who knew him during his Florida days.

 

Desire To Win

All coaches have a burning desire to win, and Spurrier is no exception. In fact, that need to win is a big reason why the days of the "fun 'n gun" are gone and Spurrier has adopted a more traditional approach at South Carolina.

"He loves to throw the football, but he loves to win more," said Ackerman. "At the end of the day, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I always thought Spurrier would go down as the greatest passing coach in the history of the game. He might, but he's won at South Carolina in different ways. That's a tribute to his coaching."

He has swallowed his pride a bit at South Carolina knowing that what worked at Florida might not work in Columbia.

"It's that desire to win that has overcome his need to throw the ball all over the yard like we used to," said Doering. 

It was the burning desire to win that drove him back to college from the NFL, where he went 12-20 in two years with the Redskins from 2002-2003.

"That was one of the hardest things about being in the NFL with him in Washington, was that he didn't realize that unlike college, you're going to lose," said Doering. "If you lose six games in a season, that's a pretty dang good year."

South Carolina was a different challenge for Spurrier. He built and sustained a dynasty at Florida, a program ready-made for success, tested his hand at the NFL and then came to South Carolina in 2005, a program with one double-digit-win season at the time—knowing this was a long-term process, not a quick fix.

"I saw Spurrier come into the program and immediately change the culture at South Carolina," said Frisby. "'Why not us?' was his mantra. Coach weeded out questionable players and imparted the work ethic needed to succeed. He instantly put our focus on the bigger picture. His focus was on keeping the best players in the state here and then branch out to neighboring Georgia, North Carolina and down into Florida."

One "rebuilding year" at a program that has not been a traditional power isn't going to derail Spurrier's personal goals that he set for himself when he took the job, but it might just delay them a little bit.

"I would be totally surprised if 'the HBC' left before winning an SEC Championship at South Carolina," Frisby said. "He truly believes this can be accomplished. Coach is driven by challenges. He is driven by excellence. He believes the SEC Championship at Carolina is his challenge, his destiny."

His destiny hasn't been realized yet, and there's still more gas in the tank.

"He wants to win in literally everything he does," Garcia said. "Whether it's writing, running, literally everything he's trying to win."

 

All Coaches Aren't Created Equal

It's no secret that coaching is a nomadic profession, but Spurrier is the exception. He spent more than a decade in Gainesville at Florida and is working on his 10th in Columbia as the Head Ball Coach at South Carolina, making him the first SEC coach to work 10 years or more at two different conference schools.

"Obviously you never know what your path in life is going to lead to," Spurrier said at SEC media days in July. "When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I was going to coach NFL five or six years and retire to the beach and play golf a bunch and travel around, this, that and the other. But that was a bad plan."

It was a bad plan because Spurrier can have his cake and eat it too.

"He loves coaching football and he loves calling ball plays," said Doering. "As much as he loves playing golf and hanging out in Crescent Beach (Florida), I still think there's that competitive fire that burns in him that he needs that outlet for."

It isn't just Spurrier who enjoys the time away, it's his staff. He famously criticized Alabama's Nick Saban this offseason for his all-football approach to coaching.

“I told Nick Saban one time, I said, ‘Nick, you don’t have to stay there until midnight and your teams would be just as good and win just as many,’” Spurrier said according to Josh Kendall of The State. “He said, ‘If I could do it the way you do it, I would, but I don’t feel comfortable unless I try to cover every base, every angle, be totally prepared.’"

Spurrier runs his program differently.

"The game game doesn't burn him out in the same way it does other coaches," said Wes Mitchell, who covers the program for GamecockCentral.com on the Rivals network. "Not only himself, but he allows his assistants to spend time with their families. He spends times with his family. He takes his vacations. It's not a 24/7 thing for him. If Steve Spurrier approached in the same way as some of these other coaches, he wouldn't be doing it to this day."

It's not just Spurrier, though. He knows a happy staff is a successful staff and aggressively works to ensure that his assistants have a similar quality of life.

"I've heard more and more say that it's a really good program to be in when you consider the way some other programs are run," Mitchell said. "Spurrier's belief is to work your tail off on a schedule and get done what you need to get done. But how much are you going to get done at 2:00 a.m. and then being tired the next day? Are you really going to be that much more productive?"

On the field, he has become more of a CEO at South Carolina, delegating responsibilities to his coaches and his players.

"Coach Spurrier puts a lot of trust in the coaches he hires to do their jobs," Frisby said. "He works as hard as any coach in America on the X's and O's of the game. The difference is he lives and breathes offense. It's easier for him than other offensive coordinators because he sees the field himself as a quarterback and knows exactly what play will be successful. Therefore the offense is less scripted and more reactive to defenses. The only thing a player has to do to be successful in the Spurrier offense is his job. The structure of the staff definitely lends to a decreased chance of 'burn out' because all the element are synchronized."

 

Help on the Way

The window for Spurrier to win an SEC championship at South Carolina is closing, but it's not locked. In fact, help is on the way in the form of a stellar 2015 recruiting class.

As of Sept. 10, the Gamecocks rank fifth in the 247Sports team composite rankings in the upcoming class, and several of those players could fill personnel holes that have haunted the team over the first two games of the 2014 season.

Pass rush has been a problem so far, and 4-star defensive ends Marquavius Lewis (Hutchinson, KS), Shameik Blackshear (Bluffton, SC), Arden Key (Atlanta, Georgia) and Dexter Wideman (Camden, SC) are all committed for the upcoming class; and 4-star corner Mark Fields (Cornelius, NC) will join a roster that was injected with secondary talent in 2014.

"He's already pretty excited about where this recruiting class is ranked," Mitchell said. "He's generally not a guy who mentions recruiting too much at all, but he has mentioned the fact that this incoming class is highly ranked. Some of the positions on defense that they're struggling at right now, they have some reinforcements coming in."

It will still be challenging for the Head Ball Coach to accomplish his goals. After all, Tennessee is on the rebound, Florida seems to have found the right offensive scheme to fit its athletes and Georgia evidently cloned running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the form of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, respectively.

South Carolina is putting itself in that discussion from recruiting, facilities and winning standpoints, which leaves the days of fighting for bowl games in the rearview mirror.

"He continues to field top-10 recruiting classes, and he understands the program is nowhere near its ceiling," Frisby said.

Destiny might not be realized and the window is closing a little bit, but the foundation is there for Spurrier to make at least one more run at accomplishing his primary goal at South Carolina. 

"Winning an SEC championship at a place like South Carolina would be an exclamation point on a pretty good career all around," said Doering.

An exclamation point indeed. It'd also leave the program in a tremendous spot for Spurrier's successor.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Blueprint for Brady Hoke to Save Michigan's Season and His Job

Brady Hoke lost a game he could not afford to lose in a way he could not afford to lose at Notre Dame last weekend, falling to the Irish 31-0. It was the first time Michigan failed to score a point since October 1984, two months before LeBron James was born and the same year Apple unveiled the Mac.

To say the embarrassment was ill-timed would be an understatement, and a massive one at that. Hoke was on the hot seat well before the trip to South Bend, needing to avoid even minor indignities to save his job. That's what happens when you guide the winningest program in college football history to a 15-11 record over two seasons—especially when that record coincides with your in-state rival, Michigan State, burgeoning into a power. Your margin for error starts to thin. 

Even losing 42-30 or 21-10 would have been problematic.

Thirty-one to nil is a catastrophe.

But that doesn't mean that Hoke is a goner, necessarily. Nor does it mean that the season is a loss. There's a way for Michigan to get this campaign back on the rails, and even though it might require radical adjustments, it isn't altogether far-fetched.

Let's examine. 

 

Get the Ball Out of the Quarterback's Hands…And Fast

At this point, developing the offensive line for immediate improvement is a lost cause. If Hoke were able to do that, it would be done by now. First-year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is capable of developing an offensive line—it's one of the main reasons he was brought in from Alabama—but it appears one offseason was not enough time to indoctrinate the players on the roster. 

This unit will not be good in 2014.

Period.

Is all of that actually true? Maybe yes and maybe no. But for all intents and purposes, it's an assumption that Michigan should act upon. It can't try to play a vertical, attacking style of offense with a group of blockers that can't protect its quarterback—especially when that quarterback, Devin Gardner, relies so much on protection.

According to Phil Callihan of Bleacher Report, Nussmeier blamed Gardner's struggles against Notre Dame "on him still learning the system." But that is only half of the truth.

Yes, Gardner needs to be better and more confident in the system, but Nussmeier also must recognize what Gardner is and isn't.

What he is is a strong-armed QB who does best when he hits his first or second read.

What he isn't is someone who should ever be trusted to improvise.

Ever.

Ideally, the offensive line could be trusted to protect Gardner for more than two or three seconds. Ideally, he could drop back and scan the the whole field, read the defense, make a decision, contemplate that decision, scan the field again, consider the ramifications of his throw, then unwind. Ideally, the potential for disaster wouldn't rise by an exponent of 10 with every step Gardner takes in the pocket.

But none of those things are the case.

Instead, Gardner needs to get the ball out of his hands early and often. He must mitigate his potential to provoke the game-changing turnover. Michigan, for those who didn't know, outgained Notre Dame by nine yards in Saturday's loss. It was turnovers that dictated the outcome; Michigan had three and forced zero.

Hoke and Nussmeier can run the same old offense against Miami (Ohio) this weekend and probably do well. The same way the offensive line looked good against Appalachian State, it can probably look good against the Red Hawks. After the game, everyone can talk about how the system—when implemented properly—works.

Or, instead of that, Hoke and Nussmeier can acknowledge the futility of the offensive line, admit that posting hollow stats against inferior defensive lines means nothing and use the Miami (Ohio) game as a testing ground for a quick-read game plan. Instead of a steadfast commitment to Nussmeier's system—a system I have no problem with, but which necessitates a competent offensive line—they can pivot based on the cards they are holding.

It's a bit of a long shot breaking away from what you spent all spring and fall planning, but a long shot is what Hoke needs to save his job. This offense will get flattened against Michigan State and Ohio State if it doesn't adapt the scheme to the personnel. Nussmeier doesn't have the horses to do what he wants to do, and Hoke doesn't have the luxury of letting players develop during a lost year, of wetting Shane Morris' feet over the next 10 games.

He needs this ship to turn around now.

 

Turn Jabrill Peppers Loose

Whether or not Jabrill Peppers is actually ready for his close-up, Hoke needs to treat him like he is. Assuming Peppers is healthy enough to play (he missed the Notre Dame game with a bum ankle), he needs to be a focal point instead of an ancillary piece.

Before the Notre Dame loss, that wasn't necessarily the case. Before the first shutout in the post-Reagan era of Michigan football, Hoke could afford to ease Peppers along. Before the most embarrassing defeat since "Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32," it was all about the little things that Peppers could contribute.

But now? Hoke has to see what he has.

And he has to do it fast.

Getting Peppers on the field as often as possible is the best (only?) way for Hoke to semi-endear himself to the Michigan faithful. They might not forgive him after what happened against Notre Dame, but seeing Peppers touch the ball will help them forget. The luster of their prized recruit will distract them from the Hoke problem, like Soma.

Out of everything Hoke has done since arriving in 2011, signing Peppers ranks right up next to winning the Sugar Bowl. It might even rank slightly ahead. Peppers was the No. 3 overall player and top athlete in the 2014 recruiting class, the type of prospect Michigan used to sign with regularity. And now? Here they have one again.

Not turning Peppers loose would be sort of like folding pocket Aces. Closer, it would be like being dealt one ace, then folding before getting your next hole card. You know that the hand will be good, potentially even great, but you don't stick around to see the flop.

We have no idea how good Peppers can be as a true freshman, no clue what position he should play. But in some ways, isn't that the point?

Hoke cannot afford to go down without exhausting every Peppers-related option. Try him out at nickel, at corner, at safety, at running back, at receiver—let him call the plays, if you must. Give him as much to do as possible, a bona fide chance to break out.

A huge season from Peppers would mean huge optimism for the future, even if that future includes Hoke. That holds doubly true if Peppers' huge season is the result of creative usage.

If Hoke unlocks the best way to use Peppers, would it really be prudent to fire him? To allow another coach to step in and try his hand? To give Peppers impetus to…*gasp*…maybe transfer?

I didn't think so, either.

 

Dominate the Defensive Trenches

Michigan's strength is on defense, and the strength of its defense is the defensive line and linebackers. If this team is going to contend in the Big Ten East, it will have to own the defensive point of attack.

Fortunately, that strength aligns with the weaknesses of its three primary competitors: Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State. All three of those teams have questions along the offensive line.

The Buckeyes are breaking in four new starters up front, and the immediate results have been ugly. Michigan State's situation is not as dire, but injuries took their toll in the second half against Oregon, when physical linemen such as Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner changed the game. And Penn State might be worst of all, averaging 2.76 yards per carry through two games with a unit redolent of last year's Wolverines.

Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers wrote that the pass-rush "didn't fail" against Notre Dame on Saturday; instead, it was beaten by the elusiveness of Everett Golson, who by many accounts (including my own) played the best game of his life.

Players such as Frank Clark, Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden are All-Big Ten talents, and all of them are fully developed. Players such as Willie Henry and Taco Charlton are getting there. Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State are beatable this season, and beating one or two of them is Hoke's best (only?) chance of salvaging his job.

If he wants to get it done, the front seven has to be the key.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Boston College to Wear 'Red Bandana' Uniforms to Honor 9/11 Hero

Boston College's football team will pay tribute to an alum and hero from the September 11 attacks with "Red Bandana" helmets and uniforms this week against USC.

Welles Crowther was a 24-year-old New York equity trader who managed to save the lives of many people during the 9/11 attacks before he died. Crowther wore a red bandana to protect himself from the smoke on September 11 and was known for wearing it under his helmet while playing lacrosse for Boston College.

You can hear more of Crowther's story below.

[Boston College Equipment, h/t Lost Letterman]

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Florida State Football: How Recent Injuries Could Impact the Seminoles' Season

Florida State was fortunate that it didn't suffer major injuries during its national title run in 2013. However, the Seminoles may not be as lucky this season.

Starting defensive tackles Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, along with backup Justin Shanks, suffered leg injuries as a result of cut blocks from The Citadel offensive linemen in the Seminoles' 37-12 win on Saturday night.

None of the three practiced on Tuesday afternoon, and coach Jimbo Fisher said their status would be evaluated day by day.

No. 1 FSU (2-0) will certainly benefit from a bye week to rest up and possibly get some of the linemen back for the ACC opener against Clemson on Sept. 20. The healthy return of the linemen is crucial to the Seminoles' defensive success in 2014.

When defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan left to the NFL after his junior season, he left a large void in the middle of a Seminoles defense that allowed just 12.6 points per game in 2013.

FSU went into the season with only a few experienced defensive tackles: Goldman started 13 games a year ago, Lawrence-Stample made six starts and a few others had seen some playing time as reserves.

If Goldman and Lawrence-Stample are not able to play against Clemson or beyond, it could be a crushing blow to the defense.

While Goldman and Lawrence-Stample combined for just 34 tackles in 2013, they are key in collapsing the pocket on passing downs or occupying the attention of offensive linemen in rushing situations, which allows FSU's linebackers to make plays.

If the defensive tackles are not able to play, it could continue to affect FSU's struggles on third down. Oklahoma State (8-for-16) and The Citadel (11-for-17) were able to easily move the chains in these situations, although the Bulldogs weren't able to score until the fourth quarter.

FSU has depth—just not a lot of experience—at defensive tackle.

After Goldman and Lawrence-Stample were injured, the Seminoles turned to redshirt junior Derrick Mitchell (four tackles) and a large group of freshmen to fill in. Redshirt freshman Keith Bryant saw the playing field for the first time and had two tackles, while true freshman Derrick Nnadi added three tackles.

Fisher praised Mitchell's performance against The Citadel.

"Probably played the best of anybody up front," Fisher said. "Derrick has played as solid as anybody. I feel he's like a starter. You can put him in the game and feel very comfortable about what he’s doing and how he's doing it."

Mitchell has been sidelined by back injuries twice in his FSU career but said he felt healthy for the first time in years when he went through offseason conditioning drills in February.

"It feels great every time I put my hand in the dirt," Mitchell said. "I thank God and I thank Coach Fisher and Coach Odell (Haggins) for never giving up on me."

FSU's 2014 signing class included five defensive tackles—Nnadi, Demarcus Christmas, Fredrick Jones, Adam Torres and Arthur Williams. So far, Nnadi has seen the most playing time. Christmas had a tackle against The Citadel.

Fisher has been impressed with Nnadi.

"I think Nnadi has a great future and he can help us quickly," Fisher said. "Big, strong, athletic."

If FSU doesn't have experienced linemen like Goldman and Lawrence-Stample available, Mitchell would be first in line to start. But then it could be up to players like Bryant, Nnadi and Christmas to complete a rotation that allows FSU to have fresh linemen in the game.

"We don't know for sure if we'll have those guys, preferably we will," Mitchell said. "You just got to go out there and keep working hard like you're trying to get a starting position."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats are courtesy of FSU game notes and the team's 2014 media guide. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Football: Areas QB Tanner McEvoy Must Improve On

Through his first two games as a starting FBS quarterback, Wisconsin football fans have seen two drastically different players on the field, despite carrying the same name and number on his jersey.

Tanner McEvoy, seen as the key to success this season, was demonized after a horrific Week 1 performance but bounced back in Week 2 against Western Illinois.

Against LSU, McEvoy went 8-of-24 for 50 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Against Western Illinois, McEvoy went 23-of-28 for 283 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Granted, the caliber of defense is drastically different to say the least, but Badgers fans saw two totally different quarterbacks under center.

One thing that has remained constant is McEvoy's ability to use his legs. Against LSU, McEvoy totaled 40 yards on six carries. Against Western Illinois, McEvoy piled up 55 yards on nine carries and added a touchdown to his impressive day that saw him end with more rushing yards than Melvin Gordon.

While many fans will point to his 17 straight completions as a sign that McEvoy has become the dual-threat quarterback Gary Andersen hoped and dreamed of, there are still plenty of things McEvoy must improve on.

Let's take a look at four areas that McEvoy could stand to refine.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Can Make National Statement with a Win over Texas in Jerry World

Within the current climate of the sport, wins versus reputable competition can go a long way in determining potential positioning for the College Football Playoff.

The UCLA football team has an opportunity to enhance its playoff resume on Saturday night in a nonconference clash versus Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Ranked as the No. 12 team in the country, UCLA came into this season with the aspirations of playing in the inaugural playoff.

Jim Mora's team hasn't looked great throughout the first two weeks. Struggling to beat two opponents (Virginia, Memphis) with a combined 5-19 record a season ago isn't ideal by any stretch. Style points will likely go a long way in helping the playoff selection committee determine the final quartet.

Fortunately for the Bruins, this upcoming game can aid in their cause.

This isn't your grandfather's Texas team. Strong inherited a group in need of a complete overhaul. He's delivered just that, dismissing or suspending 11 members of the team. Many of these players were starters or expected contributors.

Strong is truly attempting to put his stamp on the program, and it's commendable.

Against UCLA, Texas will be without its starting quarterback (David Ash), starting center (Dominic Espinosa), both starting offensive tackles (Kennedy Estelle, Desmond Harrison) and potentially its best receiver (Jaxon Shipley, per Orangebloods.com).

Texas is also coming off of a 41-7 loss at home to BYU. The Longhorns were only able to muster 258 yards of total offense in the defeat. Strong's defense also gave up 248 rushing yards. This development might have Brett Hundley licking his chops in anticipation of using his legs to pick up yardage.

One may look at this game and assume UCLA is a virtual lock. All signs point to UCLA having a productive day.

However, Texas is still Texas. Much like the state in general, there's an incredibly proud football tradition in Austin. The vast majority of the players on the roster were—at one time—elite recruits coming out of high school.

This fact is not lost on Mora. In a recent press conference, Mora spoke about Texas as a whole:

Texas as a team is just very talented. This is a team filled with the best players in Texas, which is known as one of the best football states. These were the guys that were the most coveted players out of that state. You can see the ability on film.

Another main factor against UCLA is the fact this game is being played in the state of Texas. Although it's technically being billed as a neutral-site contest, Austin is a whole lot closer to Arlington than Los Angeles. I'd expect to see a sea of burnt orange on Saturday night, with some blue sprinkled in.

Lastly, Texas has the angle of redemption on its collective mind.

Talented tailback Malcolm Brown spoke with Orangebloods.com about the BYU debacle. "We're embarrassed as well. That's something that shouldn't happen to us as a team," he said.

With numbers on the roster dwindling, it could be a case of the wounded animal rising up to the occasion, ready to viciously bite.

Although Texas is down from where it usually is, UCLA can make a national statement with this game. The Longhorns are still one of the biggest and most recognizable college football programs in the entire country.

The contest will also be televised nationally at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox. This stage will allow Hundley to potentially ramp up his Heisman Trophy candidacy. In the process, UCLA will be promoted for most of the country to see. Coupled with the grandiose environment, this will truly make for great theater.

Winning this game would signal success over a very prominent program from a good conference. A victory here could also act as a galvanizing force going forward as the Bruins head into Pac-12 play.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football 2014 Week 3: Locks of the Week

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is just around the corner, and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer is here to discuss the locks of the week.

Which teams do you think will cover the spread in Week 3?

Check out the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Biggest Questions Facing Top 25 Teams Heading into Week 3

Week 2 of the 2014 college football season is in the books. Pretty soon, if you can believe it, we'll be one-quarter of the way through the regular season. 

Time flies, y'all.

Looking ahead to Week 3, there's only one game between top-25 teams: Georgia's trip to South Carolina. Otherwise, it's a fairly low-key weekend—or is it? Last week, a largely unattractive slate of games turned in some exciting results, including Nebraska's narrow escape over McNeese State.

You never can tell what's going to happen in this game. 

Which 10 storylines among the top 25 teams should you keep an eye on? The answers are in the following slides. 

The only criterion here is that one of the teams involved has to rank in either The Associated Press or USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The last time UCLA ran into a team from the Big 12, things didn't go too well.

The unsuspecting Bruins got blitzed by the Baylor Bears in the Holiday Bowl two Decembers ago. In fact, UCLA is just 1-3 both straight up and against the spread in its last four games against the Big 12.

The Bruins hope to turn those trends around when they take on Texas on Saturday night in Arlington, and they are favored to do so.

 

Point Spread

The Bruins opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, and it was bet to 7.5 points by Wednesday. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the UCLA Bruins Can Cover the Spread

The Bruins are off to a 2-0 start but are 0-2 ATS because they've just been toying with their first two opponents. UCLA opened with a 28-20 victory at Virginia, leading early 21-3, never trailing but coming up short against an 18-point spread.

The Bruins then defeated Memphis 42-35, answering every Tigers foray with a score of their own. UCLA fell behind 7-6, then immediately scored on a 62-yard Brett Hundley TD pass. The Bruins fell behind again 14-13 but retook the lead within a minute.

And in the fourth quarter, just after Memphis tied the game at 35, UCLA regained the lead within three minutes. When they put it all together, and they will, the Bruins will be very tough, on both opponents and point spreads.

 

Why the Texas Longhorns Can Cover the Spread

The Longhorns are 1-1 both SU and ATS in their first two games under new head coach Charlie Strong, winning and covering against North Texas but losing at home to BYU.

So Texas, with 15 starters back from an 8-5 team of last season, might still be experiencing the learning curve with the new coaching regime. The 'Horns only trailed the Cougars last week 6-0 at the half before the wheels came off, helped along by four Texas turnovers.

But Coach Charlie Strong knows what he's doing. He was a winner at Louisville, and he'll mold this program into his own. It might take some time, but improvement could be seen as soon as this week.

 

Smart Pick

UCLA has survived its first two games without playing its best. And if the Bruins put on a good performance this Saturday they should win and cover.

Texas is going through some growing pains at the moment, and last week, with David Ash out, the Longhorns were forced to give a sophomore QB his first career start.

UCLA may have struggled against the Big 12 over recent seasons, but this might be the best Bruins team in many years. The pick here is with the favorite, minus the points.

 

Trends:

  • Texas 7-2 SU last nine games vs. Pac-12
  • Texas is 2-4 ATS in its last six games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Oklahoma Sooners have not had much trouble beating their last six opponents, but they have struggled against teams from the SEC heading into Saturday’s home game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Sooners have gone just 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games against SEC opponents, and that includes a 45-31 win against Alabama back in January in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Point Spread

Sooners opened as 21-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the Tennessee Volunteers Can Cover the Spread

The Volunteers look to be a much-improved team this year, and the only thing keeping them from being 2-0 against the spread is a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Arkansas State last week in their 34-19 victory.

Tennessee led 31-12 at the end of the third quarter and also had a 24-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter the previous week in a 38-7 win over Utah State. Both games went under the total, and the Vols will need to play a similar low-scoring, defensive game against Oklahoma in order to improve to 2-1 ATS.

That may not be an issue, considering six of the last eight games for the Sooners against SEC teams have gone under the total.

 

Why the Oklahoma Sooners Can Cover the Spread

Oklahoma is on a mission to make it to the four-team playoff for a shot at the national championship. The best way to accomplish that is to win as many games as possible by as many points as possible against quality opponents.

Tennessee may not be the cream of the crop in the SEC, but the Volunteers represent a bigger test than the previous two opponents for the Sooners this season.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops seems like he is going all-out against the opposition this year, as his team out-gained Tulsa 580-328 in total yardage last week in a 52-7 home victory, easily covering the 24-point spread, which is bad news for Tennessee here.

 

Smart Pick

Offense has been the name of the game for the Sooners, who have scored more than 40 points in six of their last seven games. Oklahoma is 5-2 ATS during that stretch, and you can bet Stoops will do everything he can to make sure this meeting with the Vols is played at a similar pace.

The over is 10-3 in Tennessee’s last 13 games as a road underdog, which shows the team struggles more defensively in that situation.

The over is also 4-1 in the past five games as home favorites for the Sooners, who should be able to impose their will and get the cover.

 

Trends

  • Tennessee 1-4 ATS last five games as road underdog
  • Oklahoma 1-7 ATS last eight games vs. SEC
  • OVER 10-3 in Tennessee’s last 13 games as road underdog

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans vs. Boston College Eagles Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

USC is coming off a big conference road victory but now heads across the country, where it will be a big road favorite over Boston College up on Chestnut Hill on Saturday night.

The Trojans are just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games as chalk on the road. Is this a spot for a letdown, and perhaps an upset?

 

Point Spread

The USC Trojans opened as 20-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans Can Cover the Spread

The Trojans are 2-0 both SU and ATS, with wins and covers against Fresno State and, last week, at Stanford. Southern Cal blasted the Bulldogs 52-13, racking up 700 yards of total offense, beating the spread as 18-point favorites.

The Trojans then defeated the Cardinal up on the Farm 13-10, out-rushing Stanford 156-128, winning outright as three-point road dogs.

USC has 13 starters back from a team that went 10-4 last year, including RB Javorius Allen, who's rushed for 133 and 154 yards the first two games. Also, the Trojans beat BC last year 35-7 at the Coliseum, covering as 14-point favorites.

 

Why the Boston College Eagles Can Cover the Spread

The Eagles are 1-1 both SU and ATS, with a win and a cover at UMass, but a loss at home to Pitt. Boston College ran for 338 yards against the Minutemen but had to play catch-up against the Panthers.

Obviously, a key for the Eagles will be to run the ball to some degree behind an offensive line with three starters back from a unit that helped Andre Williams run for almost 2,200 yards last year.

On the other side of the ball, the BC secondary, with all four starters back, has allowed just 19 completions so far this season. If the Eagles can run the ball a little, control some clock and keep USC from making big plays, they'll have a chance to cover this spread.

 

Smart Pick

USC is clearly the better team in this matchup, but the letdown factor looms large in this spot. The Trojans just won a big game on the conference road, a victory that could come in handy when it comes to deciding the Pac-12 championship.

But USC must now compose itself, get on a plane and play a strange foe three time zones from home. UCLA just tried to cover a big number on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago, winning at Virginia but coming up short ATS.

So while Boston College didn't impress anybody last week, the pick here is with the home-dog Eagles against a USC team that has struggled in the role of road chalk.

 

Trends

  • USC 1-7 ATS last eight games as road favorite
  • Boston College 4-1 ATS last five games as home underdog
  • Boston College 0-5 ATS last five games vs. Pac. 12

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Insider Film Breakdown: Key Positions to Watch in Tennessee vs. Oklahoma Battle

The Tennessee Volunteers take on the Oklahoma Sooners this week in Norman, Oklahoma. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down what areas will determine the outcome of this battle.

What do you think the final score will be in this matchup?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rice Owls vs. Texas A&M Aggies Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

So Texas A&M was supposed to take a step back without Johnny Football, eh?

Not so fast. The Aggies are rolling already with new quarterback Kenny Hill, piling up 125 points while starting this season 2-0 both straight-up and against the spread.

A&M looks to continue the good times when it hosts a former Southwest Conference rival, the Rice Owls, on Saturday night in College Station.

 

Point spread 

The Aggies opened as 30-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark and the total was high at 71 (line updates and matchup report here).

 

Why the Owls can cover the spread

The Owls are 0-1 both SU and ATS after opening their season with a 48-17 loss at Notre Dame. Rice then had last week off, so it's had some time to make some adjustments. The Owls returned 12 starters this year from a team that went 10-4 last year, so the cupboard isn't totally bare.

And they only trailed the Irish 14-10 late into the second quarter before giving up two scores in short order to fall back. Rice has been underrated as a road entity recently, covering seven of its last nine spreads as dogs away from home.

That includes a 52-31 loss but cover as 28-point dogs against the Aggies at Kyle Field last season.

 

Why the Aggies can cover the spread

They're already asking “Johnny Who?” down in Aggie-land with the emergence of sophomore Hill, who has directed A&M to a win at South Carolina and a 73-3 romp over Lamar.

The Aggies won outright as 10-point dogs against the Gamecocks then covered as 46-point favorites against the Cardinals. So far Hill has hit on 61 of 86 throws for almost 800 yards and seven scores in a little over six quarters of field time.

The loss of Manziel was supposed to bring Texas A&M back to Earth, at least for a season or so. But suddenly, with Hill on one side and a defense that returned nine starters from last season on the other, the Aggies look like contenders in the SEC West.

 

Smart Pick

With the question mark at quarterback Texas A&M opened this season as a 10-point dog at South Carolina. After that performance the Aggies were chalked at 46 over Lamar.

Now they're almost five-touchdown favorites for this game. And that might not be enough. Rice can be a nice story, but it's got a lot of holes to fill this season, especially among the skills set.

So while it seems like a ton of points to give, the pick here is with the hot A&M team, winners of 17 of 21 games SU.

 

Trends:

  • The total has gone over in five of Rice's last six games
  • Texas A&M is 17-4 SU in its last 21 games

 

Note: All point spreads and line data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Can Noah Spence's Return Save Buckeyes Defense?

For the past two weeks, Ohio State has laid claim to the nation's best scout team defensive end.

That's not necessarily a good thing, as the Buckeyes would have preferred that Noah Spence had been wearing his familiar No. 8 scarlet jersey and taking the field with one of the nation's best defensive lines on Saturdays.

But as the Buckeyes walked off the field in the weeks leading up to matchups with Navy and Virginia Tech, Spence found himself wearing the black practice jersey reserved for helping simulate Ohio State's opponents. And on Saturdays, he was nowhere to be seen—at least inside the stadium.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but Spence put himself in this position when a positive drug test at the Big Ten Championship Game resulted in a mandatory three-game suspension. In addition to missing the first two games of the 2014 season, the All-Big Ten selection missed last season's Orange Bowl and watched as the Buckeyes went an underwhelming 1-2 in his absence.

The son of two probation officers, Spence maintains that he was unknowingly slipped Ecstasy at a party last winter. But regardless of the actual reason why the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native found himself suspended—and relegated to Ohio State's scout team—his punishment will come to an end this Saturday when the Buckeyes host Kent State.

For an Ohio State team coming off of last weekend's 35-21 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech, his return can't come soon enough.

“He’s an exceptional player and I know myself and his family are very anxious to see him play,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday. "He went down to the scout team and performed for the last two weeks. [He's] very selfless, and we’re anxious to get him going.”

On Ohio State's first depth chart since Spence returned from suspension, the former 5-star prospect found himself listed as a backup to senior Steve Miller. But it's hard to imagine Spence's status as a second-stringer being anything more than just a temporary title, as the junior is already being projected as a first-round pick in next May's NFL draft.

The hype surrounding Spence isn't without cause, either, after a sophomore season that saw him record 50 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. What's scarier for opposing offensive lines is that the 6'3", 252-pounder has only gotten better this past offseason, despite being in the midst of an ongoing suspension.

“He made a lot of improvement," said Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash. “We saw a lot of strides in the spring from him from the time we started until the time we ended in spring practice."

Those strides continued into fall camp, where Spence was permitted to take part in individual defensive linemen drills, even though he was lining up against the Buckeyes starters once scrimmage sessions started. He even managed to make a positive impression on new OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who came close to securing a commitment from the Keystone State product when he was an assistant at Penn State.

“He wants to be a great player," Johnson said of Spence in the offseason. "Great players work hard and work through adversity and that’s what he’s doing.”

But while Spence was getting better off the field, his team was getting worse on it, enduring a four-game stretch that included three losses dating back to the Big Ten title game.

That's not to say that Ohio State's primary issue has been its defensive line—Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington could help make up one of the best in the country on their own—but against the likes of the Hokies and Clemson, it's hard to argue that every bit of talent wouldn't have helped the Buckeyes' cause. Ash said that Ohio State's struggles were the result of execution and not personnel, but he also didn't downplay the impact that a player of Spence's stature could have on a game.

"It might have made a difference," Ash admitted on Monday. "Noah's a very talented player. He fits well in our scheme. He has a tremendous ability to get after the quarterback and I think it's going to help us a lot."

Those attributes will only aid the Buckeyes moving forward as they look to salvage their season after their early-season loss. And Ohio State obviously couldn't be happier to have its All-Big Ten defensive end back on the field—even if the Buckeyes scout team will suffer in the process.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Odds, Prediction

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will go from one rivalry game to another on Saturday when they host the Purdue Boilermakers in a battle for bragging rights in the state of Indiana.

Bettors should know that Purdue has not had much to brag about lately overall or in the rivalry, as the Boilermakers have lost 11 of 12 overall along with the last six meetings in the series.

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 29.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, with a total around 56 points (line updates and matchup report).

 

Why the Purdue Boilermakers can cover the spread

Even though Purdue has struggled against Notre Dame recently, the team has still managed to go 4-1 against the spread in the last five meetings, with only one of them being decided by more than 11 points.

The Boilermakers hung tough in last season’s 31-24 loss to the Fighting Irish, taking a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter before Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels scored two touchdowns in a little more than three minutes to turn the game around.

Two years ago, Purdue was tied with the Irish before giving up the game-winning field goal with seven seconds left in a 20-17 road loss.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

Notre Dame looks like a team building confidence game by game, reminiscent of the unbeaten regular-season squad that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.

The common thread there is quarterback Everett Golson, who was suspended last season due to academics but has returned with a vengeance in leading the Fighting Irish to a 2-0 mark both straight up and against the spread.

Golson threw for 226 yards in a 31-0 win over Michigan last week, and he had 295 yards in the Irish's previous game against Rice, resulting in a 48-17 victory. Notre Dame has covered the last four regular-season games he has started.

 

Smart Pick

The Big Ten’s poor showing last week should not do anything but make bettors like the Fighting Irish in this game even more. Michigan is a much better team than Purdue and could not score a point despite holding an edge in yardage for the game.

The Boilermakers struggled to move the ball in a 38-17 home loss to Central Michigan last week. QB Danny Etling threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 57 yards for the first score of the game.

Etling did not play against Notre Dame last year and will be overwhelmed in his first trip to South Bend.

 

Trends

  • Purdue is 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine games as an underdog.
  • Everett Golson is 15-0 SU as a starter for the Irish.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Standings 2013: Week 3 Rankings & Bowl Game Projections

Week 2 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, but at Bleacher Report we're always looking ahead. That's why bowl projections are full steam ahead. 

Projections are based on an equal split between Week 2 results, what problems or questions those results answer and strength of schedule for the remaining season. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 2. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 3. 

 

Associated Press Top 25

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. Texas A&M
8. Baylor
9. USC
10. LSU
11. Notre Dame
12. UCLA
13. Michigan State
14. Ole Miss
15. Stanford
16. Arizona State
17. Virginia Tech
18. Wisconsin
19. Kansas State
20. Missouri
21. Louisville
22. Ohio State
23. Clemson
24. South Carolina
25. BYU

 

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll 

1. Florida State
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Oregon
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. Baylor
8. Texas A&M
9. LSU
10. USC
11. Notre Dame
12. UCLA
13. Michigan State
14. Arizona State
15. Ole Miss
16. Stanford
17. Wisconsin
18. Ohio State
19. Virginia Tech
20. Kansas State
21. Nebraska
22. Missouri
23. South Carolina
24. Clemson
25. North Carolina

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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